I got wind of this one after someone compared it to one of my faves from last year, Orphan but, like the last few movies reviewed (lol this is turning into a theme), it sat in my collection for what in retrospect was simply way too long considering how much I got out of it when I finally gave it a chance.
What really struck me most about this movie was the atmosphere. As I often do, I tweeted about it while watching, and looking back one of my most succinct comments was that it felt so chilling that a Dementor (those soul-sucking ghouls from Harry Potter) could’ve made it. The movie opens on a young couple relocating somewhere in Ireland, the wife pregnant with child… they should be happy, you’d think, but melancholy hangs like a cloud over every move they make. You can’t help but wonder what darkness lies in their past, nor hope for the best of them in this new life (coupled of course, with the awful knowledge that you’re watching them begin that new life in what you know is to be a horror movie).
The reason they’re so sad is, they’ve lost a child before, but the sadness seems to spread beyond that. It feels utmostly raw in a truly British sense, that these are people kind of living in fear, struggling with life itself, even before any cinematic horror steps in. In other words, it’s the best kind of horror movie. Morton’s character spots a strange child living nearby, and a reclusive old man who damn near physically abuses her. The next thing you know, this girl’s home burns down, and she’s suspected by the community because they believe her to be a fairy changeling…
Morton and husband adopt her, and I think that’s probably as far as I need to go with any kind of plot description, lol. Though I’d agree with the recommendation of this as “a British Orphan”, it’s so much more than that. In Orphan, there’s that element of being slightly on the side of the evil child – at least there was for me, lol, and I don’t think I was alone… there’s something a little knowing, almost trashy there in that movie that brings out your own dark side. Here, the situation is so much heavier atmospherically and the situation that much more doubtful and real. One really doesn’t know what to think of the child here until more is revealed, at which point you feel too desperately for Morton to even question siding against her.
There’s a whole theme that runs right through to the end that makes you long to believe that Daisy is simply different, and victim herself to plain narrowmindedness, which is one the greatest and most common themes in horror itself, but it’s pretty hard to believe as the movie wears on. The climax of this movie is one of the closest things to making me physically look away from the screen that I’ve seen in ages, it’s really that tense. I admit the ending left me slightly disappointed… it’s not so much open as simply unfinished. But I’ll certainly watch this again in the future, and it’s easily one of the better British (ok, Irish, whatever…) movies I’ve seen in the past few years.
I probably don’t need to say how brilliant newcomer Mhairi Anderson is as the eponymous Daisy because in a movie like this I simply wouldn’t sound enthusiastic as this at all if the child actor weren’t perfect… but just for the record, she’s perfect, as are Morton, Mackintosh, and all the rest of the cast. I watched the movie a second time before finishing this review and it was just as compelling, so I feel more than confident in recommending it.